As I write this, I have a 3 year old who was born in Peru and a 3 month old who was born in the US. I call them my traveling babies, because I flew with both of them for the first time when they were three months old, and they’ve both been traveling all over the place since they were born.
Once, when we were in Peru, I hiked 18 miles to Machu Picchu with a toddler. Three of us took turns carrying her on our backs in a baby carrier backpack! Honestly, it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically, but when we got up to the top and I saw her crawling around in the middle of ancient ruins with llamas walking all around, I kind of felt like wonder woman!
You’ve probably heard people say that you should travel before you have kids. It’s common advice given from parents who are wading through the toddler years, barely able to make it out of the house to go to the grocery store, let alone fly on a plane!
Let me assure you, I feel just like that about 100% of the time. Taking two little kids to the grocery store is tough, but I also just flew to Germany with them on a ten hour flight with a layover and connecting flight, then a 2 hour car ride to our destination… and I survived! My biggest baby celebrated her third birthday wearing a princess dress at the top of the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. A few weeks before that, I put both of them in the car and drove for 10 hours down to South Florida.
I’ve learned a few things along the way about traveling with kids, and I want to share it with you guys! Here are my ten biggest pieces of advice for anyone who wants to travel with kiddos:
- Have a good attitude. This is the single most important piece of advice that I’m going to give you! Traveling with kids is ALL about having a positive attitude. If you get on a plane with kids, you are going to get spit up on, peed on, pooped on, and things are going to go wrong. The deciding factor is going to be whether or not you choose to have a good attitude about it all. This advice is also applicable for a normal trip to your local grocery store.
- Pack only what you need. I always pack one diaper per hour that I will be traveling. So, a 10 hour flight + a 2 hour car ride = 12 diapers. I also pack a TON of wipes, a portable changing pad (because I always end up changing all the diapers in my lap), and a few extra outfits for the kids.
- Bring fun stuff for the kids to do! For an infant, that means just pack a few pacis. For a bigger kid (1-3 years old) I bring bluetooth headphones, one of our old cell phones with some movies downloaded on it, coloring book and crayons, and one more toy like Mr. Potato Head or something that they can put together!
- Don’t overpack!! I always have the urge to overpack. My first instinct as a mom is to think the more I pack, the better prepared I will be. But, when you are carrying kids, car seats, and luggage through a busy airport, you will be thankful for a lightweight diaper bag with just the essentials inside!
- Get the gear. We have the Journey child pack from Kelty. It is pretty expensive! I bought ours second hand from a missionary in Peru who had used it for her 5 kids. Since then, it’s lasted me 3 years and is still going strong. So, it’s worth the money! We also have a JL Childress backpack that we bought from Amazon to carry our 3 year old’s car seat and a Baby Trend Sit N’ Stand double stroller for the kids to ride in. We always carry on backpacks, because it’s just easier! My backpack is always the diaper bag with the kids’ stuff in it, and my husband’s backpack has pillows, blankets, and the extra outfits for the kids! My husband has a bugout bag and I use a Vera Bradley backpack that I bought online for 50% off as my diaper bag. If you plan to travel regularly with kids, making an investment and buying quality gear will be a LIFESAVER for you!
- Know your airline’s baggage allowance. We usually fly Delta, and they allow you to check baby items at the gate for no extra charge. We can check both car seats and our double stroller for free. We also each get a carry on bag and 2 checked bags. We’ve flown Spirit and JetBlue with our kids in the past, and each airline has a different baggage allowance. Make sure you look it up online beforehand so that you are prepared!
- Bring your child’s favorite snacks and candy! When we hiked those 18 miles in Peru, Jubilee’s favorite snack at the time was plain ritz crackers. We brought a box of ritz crackers for the hike and she was so happy! I also bring suckers and candy and bribe her for good behavior and to use the potty on the airplane. You gotta do what you gotta do!
- Bring plastic grocery bags. On my most recent flight to Germany, I changed a dirty diaper on my lap while my other child was sleeping on my shoulder, and it was so convenient to just put the diaper in a plastic bag and wait for the stewardess to come by with the big trash bin. It also helps in case you need to change an outfit or if you just have some extra trash from snacks and need somewhere to put it!
- Buy a Main Cabin Extra/preferred seat or request exit row seating at the gate. We usually just request it at the gate, because then you don’t have to pay extra for it! Those are the seats at the front that have extra legroom. If you get those seats, you can request an infant bassinet from the stewardesses, and they will come and install it for you. It clips right into the wall in front of you, and it is a lifesaver on long flights!
- Be a good sport. No matter how much you prepare or how hard you try, things are going to happen! I’ve been at the gate ready to board the plane before and had an infant poop on me. I had to rush to the bathroom with poop running down my arm! I trashed the whole outfit, washed the baby in the sink, and kept on going! In the end, the memories made are priceless and precious (and sometimes hilarious), even if it doesn’t feel like that in the moment.
So, yes, you should definitely travel before kids! And you should definitely travel after you have kids as well! If you have little kids and are considering traveling with them, go for it! It will be tough, you will probably get pooped on a few times, but it will be so worth it!
With messy hair and wild grace,